The Cherokee nation and habitat for humanity: Tahlequah, OK

Cecilia Hernandez, Arts & Life Editor

Under the Alternative Spring Break program at NEIU, 10 NEIU students traveled to Tahlequah, Oklahoma to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity and learn about the Cherokee Nation. I was among the ten students. In the rural country, we were taught how to properly handle tools and follow procedures to build a house. The house is  for Jana Taylor, an elderly woman whom does not have running water in her current home, and uses space heaters to keep warm during the winter.

We worked around seven hours each day of the week where we build not only a home for Taylor, but we also built friendships among our peers and mentors known as caravaners. We helped the caravaners finish the roof, indoor framing and half of the siding, which pushed the construction two-and-a-half weeks ahead of schedule.

After our construction day ended, we would head home for a quick shower and lunch, then prepared for a night with some members of the Cherokee Nation. During these nights, we learned about Cherokee History, particularly the effect The Trail of Tears had on five indigenous tribes, through stories, discussions and games.

We learned how to weave baskets and visited museums. At the end of each day, we would have reflections where we shared our perspectives of the Cherokee Nation. With the help of our student leader Steven Cristi and advisor Rae Joyce Baguilat, we were able to transform from complete strangers to friends–people who shared an unforgettable experience that brought us closer than ever. For anyone interested, a presentation will be conducted in the following weeks about these students’ experiences, so keep on the look-out for that.